Franz Schubert—Trout Quintet (Speakers Corner 180g vinyl reissue)


I wrote a review of a new Trout Quintet CD recording a couple of weeks ago. In my research for that disappointing release, I searched Audiophilia for my review of a Decca LP reissue of the Trout. I thought I reviewed it last year. Nothing there, which leads me to this very pleasant task—reviewing a classic performance and reissue recording of one of Schubert's most endearing works. 

Schubert usually wrote chamber music with specific musical friends in mind, which may be the reason for the quintet's odd instrumentation; piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. No matter, because typical of Schubert, his genius for exquisite melody and concomitant harmony is in full swing here. It's called the Trout because the 4th movement is a set of variations on his song Die Forelle (The Trout). 

This reissue is from the classic 1958 Decca release recorded in Vienna with the top British pianist of his time, Sir Clifford Curzon and solo members of the Wiener Philharmoniker, herein called 'Members of the Vienna Octet'. The leader of the octet was the great Willi Boskovsky, yes that Willi Boskovsky, of Strauss waltz fame. 

The actual recording is from October 1957 in the Sofiensaal, Vienna by James Brown. The Sofiensaal is the venue for many great Vienna Deccas, including the seminal Solti Mahler 8 with the Chicago Symphony. 

Speakers Corner uses original analogue master tapes from which to cut the new lacquer. It shows here with a reissue of the highest quality. Surfaces are exemplary. Adhering to the original, the only work on the LP is the quintet, which makes for a quick listen. But when the performance and recording is of this quality, it is of little matter. 

Other then the dreadful recording and ridiculous marketing, my main gripe with the recent DG 'all star' CD release was the imbalanced performance. With Trifonov and Mutter leading the team, the playing was always going to be wonderful, but the other instruments got short shrift. Much of Schubert's important counterpoint and musical emphases disappeared. Not here.

Curzon and Boskovsky's lines are blended beautifully into Schubert's instrumentation, but each of the five players add to the overall musical interpretation, featuring gorgeous phrasing, energetic rhythms, and the aforementioned counterpoint. The elegance coupled with free-wheeling virtuosity is truly beguiling. 

The recording is outstanding, During my research for the DG CD release, I listened to other performances, many of which had superior recordings, especially the excellent András Schiff, Alois Posch, and Hagen Quartet 1999 Decca CD release. Then I listened to this Vienna Decca LP. Truly remarkable. The 'presence' of the musicians, the immediacy of the hall, and sounding like no CD of the Trout you'll ever hear. The timbral accuracy of both piano and strings is uncanny. And with echt-Wiener style, unmatched. 

Problems? Short on time and some brief, dodgy intonation (sharp) from Johann Krump, Double-Bass. Other than that, a flawless LP and very highly recommended. 

Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 (The Trout) [1819]

Sir Clifford Curzon, piano, with Members of the Vienna Octet

Reissued by Speakers Corner from Decca SXL 2110